Today is the start of FIBArk.
What's FIBArk, you ask?
First in Boating the Arkansas (River) is the nation's oldest whitewater festival. And it's held right here in my backyard of Salida, Colorado.
From the official FIBArk website a brief history:
The FIBArk boat races started June 19, 1949 when six boats entered the Arkansas River in Salida on their treacherous 57 mile run to Canon City through the vertical cliffs of the Royal Gorge Canyon. Fueled by the spring snow pack runoff from the mountains of the Continental Divide and 5 or 6 feet above normal level, the river water ripped down the canyon creating tremendous currents and boiling rapids where the valley walls narrow and the river floor drops.
Only two boaters finished the race that year and the following year the course was shortened to 45 miles. Only one person finished the second year. In the interest of keeping the contestants alive, the race was shortened again to 25.7 miles for the third year. It is still the longest whitewater race in the U.S..
And probably the most fun. The entire town turns out for four days + of races, parades, beer, and music. And maybe just a little pot.
Thursday evening is the Tenderfoot Hill Climb. Remember my drive to the top of S Mountain last week? Runners start at the base of the mountain and run STRAIGHT UP, then back down again. And they do it in less than 12 minutes. It's amazing. I get out of breath just watching.
Runners heading STRAIGHT up to the top of Tenderfoot/S Mountain.
Photo by Matt Kroschel/The Mountain Mail
Friday starts with a Pancake Breakfast, followed by races in the river, a carnival and live music in the park. At night there is dancing on the grass in front of the bands.
Veterans proudly march.
People line the street for the parade down F Street.
There's a very large bridge support in the middle of the river these guys are trying to avoid.
A prison break?
Nope, just a Hooligan float.
Then more music in the park. And dancing. The air is heavy with smoke...a contact high is possible.
Beer and wine are served. Babies dance. Gray haired couples dance. Teenagers dance. All are welcome. As the night goes on, the girls get prettier, the guys get more handsome, the party gets louder. Last year we wisely took a hotel in town just so we wouldn't have to drive home with the rowdies. Don't have one this year but I figure the girls have friends in town to stay with and I won't be out late.
Music at Riverside Park.
Not even dark and already the photos are blurry.
By 6pm, things are wrapped up, the whole party is over.
This year I confess to seeing it more from a local's point of view than in previous years. I went into town today and stocked up at the grocery and ran all my errands. I'm not interested in trying to fight the crowds over the next four days if I don't have to. And already I am weary of the drivers not familiar with the canyon road that I drive every day. It's a narrow road, river on one side, mountain on the other. Each direction has one lane. Nervous drivers tend to straddle the middle yellow line. That would work if it were a straight road, but it isn't. Not at all. I dodged two cars today-both coming at me in my lane- on my way into town.
Nevertheless, I am still excited for the fun to come.
Taylor Stack, 15 and the current owner of our baby chicks, won the Tenderfoot Hill Climb with a time of 10 minutes, 39 seconds. The second place runner came in at 11 minutes 7 seconds which means Taylor was hauling butt up and down that hill. Even more impressive, he didn't even look like he had broken a sweat doing it. Just came running across the finish line like it was a stroll in the park. Amazing. Especially when you consider he was running at an altitude of about 7000 feet.
(And he was only 7 seconds off the all time record speed of 10 min 32 seconds set back in 2006.)